and put a knife in your throat
if you have a greedy appetite. Bible

“put a knife in your throat.” This is a hyperbole, an exaggeration, much the same as when Jesus said, “And if your eye causes you to fall away, pluck it out and throw it away from you” (Matt. 18:9). Michael Fox catches the meaning of the phrase: “A startling metaphor for self-control. Slit your throat, as it were, rather than giving in to hunger.” Many English translations water down the hyperbole by having something like, “put a knife to your throat,” but the Hebrew text is “in your throat.”

Self-control is vital to living a godly Christian life and is a hallmark of serious believers. One of the fruits of the spirit is “self-control” (Gal. 5:23). The sinner and the carnal Christian gives in to their fleshly desires and does not curb their emotions or their appetites. This was foretold long ago: “In the last time there will be mockers, walking after their own ungodly desires” (Jude 1:18). Following our flesh and the desires that naturally arise within us from our sin nature will result in “the works of the flesh,” such as “sexual immorality, unrestrained behavior, hostility, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, envyings, drunkenness, and things like these” (from Gal. 5:20-21).

Wise believers carefully guard their godly way of life (Prov. 16:17). They guard the truth they have been taught (Prov. 4:13), guard their “soul,” that is, their thoughts, attitudes, and emotions (Prov. 22:5), and they watch what they say (Prov. 13:3). The Devil’s goal is to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10), so it is no surprise that there is very little mention of self-control in the world today. In fact, the world teaches the opposite of the Bible’s godly advice and tells people to do whatever they feel like doing. Wise believers know that that advice is from the Devil and will eventually steal their peace and joy on earth and also keep them from being rewarded in their next life, in the Millennial Kingdom.

[For more on rewards in the Kingdom, see commentary on 2 Cor. 5:10, “good or worthless.” For more information on the Millennial Kingdom, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth].

“greedy appetite.” The Hebrew is an idiom, very literally, “baal of a nephesh.” In the Hebrew, “baal” can refer to the god Baal, or have the literal meaning of the word “baal,” which is “lord” or “owner,” and sometimes “husband” since in the biblical culture the husband was considered the lord of the wife. The top god of the Canaanites was “Baal,” literally, “lord,” but in our English versions the Hebrew word “baal” is transliterated as “Baal” rather than translated as “lord” when it is used as the proper name of the god. However, in contexts like this one, “baal” means “lord” or “owner.”

The word nephesh (#05315 נֶפֶשׁ), has a wide range of meanings, including the person himself; the invisible life force inside people and animals that we call “soul”; the thoughts, attitudes, and emotions of a person; or a person’s desire or appetite. This is one of the places where nephesh refers to the desires and appetites of a person. So the idiomatic phrase, “lord of an appetite,” is someone with a great appetite, or very likely in this context, someone with a greedy appetite, eating much more than he needs or would normally take. That makes sense in this context because the man is eating with a ruler (Prov. 23:1), so the food set before him would be much better than the food he would ordinarily eat, thus presenting a great temptation for the man to stuff himself. Believers will occasionally be faced with situations when there is a temptation to take more than we should, such as in a wedding where free drinks are being offered or a banquet where the food is excellent and abundant, and we need to carefully guard our godly way of life and exercise self-control in those situations, indeed, in every situation.

[For more on the meaning of nephesh, see Appendix 7, “Usages of ‘Soul’].

Commentary for: Proverbs 23:2